White ink tattoos: What you need to know

Controversial white ink tattoos are growing in popularity amongst those who want to get away from the mainstream.

Tattoo lovers are turning to the light side, thanks to the white ink trend.


The bizarre-looking body art is particularly impressive under UV light; however, many artists refuse to tattoo the skin in white ink because of potential complications, such as scarring and fading.


Sara Swanson, contributor to Ink Done Right, a website dedicated to the world of tattoos, explains the pros and cons of the new craze.


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Why are white tattoos growing in popularity?

– They are incredibly subtle. Unlike a regular tattoo, a small white ink one is not necessarily visible at first sight. They have a far more elegant and classy touch, which is why women are into them. The second reason is that tattoos are now pretty "mainstream", especially when you consider that about 35 per cent of all U.S. citizens between 18 and 40 are tattooed – this is more of a niche trend. But unlike having a regular tattoo, white ink tattoos are special because they’re seldom seen.

Is it as painful to get a white ink tattoo?

– They are made the same way as a regular tattoo. There is no difference in pain between a white ink and a black ink tattoo. The pain heavenly depends on the body part and the individual.

Are they somehow better than regular tattoos?

– No. Tattooing is an art for both the artist and the canvas. Like every art form, it comes down to personal preferences. Whatever it is that the canvas [the individual] wants to express on his or her skin, makes for the perfect tattoo.

Do they look better on dark skin?

– Anyone who can get a tattoo can have a white ink one. Always check before you get a tattoo to see if there’s the possibility of an allergic reaction or other medical condition that might put your health at risk. Think before you ink – no matter what color it is. But there are visual benefits for dark and light skin types.

What happens if this type of art is done incorrectly?

– White ink tattoos can end up looking like scars or skin diseases. But that doesn't have to be the tattoo artist's mistake. If a tattoo gets infected, it can either be due to unsterile working conditions or poor aftercare treatment or both. White ink tattoos do, unfortunately, have a pretty high chance of not working out. Either they end up looking like a scar, or the ink fades fast, or even turn into a grey-yellow color mix.

Are they very difficult to pull off?

– Yes, they are because there are more risk factors involved. No one can predict upfront how the skin will react and how it will heal. The additional risk factors make them really unpredictable. If it works, they can look absolutely stunning. Otherwise they might need a cover up with regular colors.

Will white ink tattoos become more popular in the future?

– Yes, they will become more popular in the future. A few years ago, we hardly received any questions about white ink tattoos. Today, we get several emails daily, especially asking about where an artist can be found. But many artists refuse to make pure white ink tattoos. When the tattoo fades, it can look like a scar or change in color. If this happens, a lot of clients are quick to blame the artist. The artist might have executed the tattoo absolutely flawlessly but it still doesn't turn out the expected way.